The NHS has now issued its new central guidance for use of face masks in clinical settings. It tells hospitals and other clinical settings to cease the requirement for staff, patients and visitors to wear a face mask unless Covid positive or working with those who are or may be Covid positive. This is good news, though it could go further as it means A&E staff and others working in untriaged settings will continue to be usually masked, plus it perpetuates the nonsense that masks prevent the spread of COVID-19. Read the new guidance in full below.
For health and care staff:
• Health and care staff should continue to wear facemasks as part of personal protective equipment required for transmission-based precautions when working in COVID-19/respiratory care pathways, and when clinically caring for suspected/confirmed COVID-19 patients. This is likely to include settings where untriaged patients may present such as emergency departments or primary care, depending on local risk assessment. In all other clinical care areas, universal masking should be applied when there is known or suspected cluster transmission of SARS-CoV-2, e.g. during an outbreak, and/or if new SARS-CoV-2 VOC emerge.
• Universal masking should also be considered in settings where patients are at high risk of infection due to immunosuppression e.g. oncology/haematology. This should be guided by local risk assessment.
• Health and care staff are in general not required to wear facemasks in nonclinical areas e.g. offices, social settings, unless this is their personal preference or there are specific issues raised by a risk assessment. This should also be considered in community settings.
• Inpatients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be provided with a facemask on admission. This should be worn in multi-bedded bays and communal areas, e.g. waiting areas for diagnostics, if this can be tolerated and is deemed safe for the patient. They are not usually required in single rooms, unless, e.g., a visitor enters.
• All other inpatients are not necessarily required to wear a facemask unless this is a personal preference. However, in settings where patients are at high risk of infection due to immunosuppression e.g. oncology/haematology, patients may be encouraged to wear a facemask following a local risk assessment.
• Patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 transferring to another care area should wear a facemask (if tolerated) to minimise the dispersal of respiratory secretions and reduce environmental contamination.
• The requirement for patients to wear a facemask must never compromise their clinical care, such as when oxygen therapy is required or where it causes distress, e.g. paediatric/mental health settings.
For outpatients, UEC and primary care:
• Patients with respiratory symptoms who are required to attend for emergency treatment should wear a facemask/covering, if tolerated, or offered one on arrival.
• All other patients are not required to wear a facemask unless this is a personal preference.
• In inpatient settings where patients are at high risk of infection due to immunosuppression, e.g. oncology/haematology, visitors may be asked to wear a facemask following a local risk assessment.
• Visitors and individuals accompanying patients to outpatient appointments or the emergency department are not routinely required to wear a facemask unless this is a personal preference, although they may be encouraged to do so following a local risk assessment.
Now, will the hospitals and other clinical settings follow it, or will their “local risk assessments” have other ideas?